Friday, April 25, 2008

We love moms. And Roger Sutton. But we love Kadir Nelson most of all.

This week the Today Show and Newsweek have both featured My Beautiful Mommy, a new picture book by plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Salzhauser meant to reassure kids about Mommy's tummy tuck or nose job. It might be comforting for children whose mothers opt for cosmetic surgery, but the side effects -- advertising plastic surgery procedures to a new generation and perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards -- unsettle us. For Mom, we'd prescribe a look at Nancy Redd's Body Drama, which encourages young women to "know, own, and love" their bodies -- a message with beneficial properties for any woman. A good choice for little ones is The Mommy Book by Todd Parr. Its accessible text and illustrations show how mommies are different (some drive cars and some ride motorcycles) and how they're alike (they give hugs and kisses). On Mother's Day show your mommy you love her just the way she is. Choose from lots of "mommy books" from our Mother's Day display or make an appointment for a silhouette done by artist Marcella Comerford.

The latest issue of The Horn Book Magazine has just arrived! Catch a starred review of CG staffer Bethany's beloved We Are the Ship, along with Susan Cooper's speech "Unriddling the World: Fantasy and Children," which was originally presented last November at the Cambridge Forum. If you can't get enough of The Horn Book, check out our favorite blogger, Roger Sutton, or sign up for their free email newsletter. In case you hadn't noticed, we definitely can't get enough!

The Children's Book Council's annual Children's Book Week is coming up in just a few weeks, May 12th through 18th. This year, for the first time ever, they're hosting a Children's Choice book award! Kids can go vote for the best book, author, and illustrator of the year. We'd have a hard time choosing a favorite among the nominees, who include Curious George best-sellers Mo Willems (the Pigeon series), Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians series), Jennifer Holm (Babymouse series), and Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Roderick Rules).

A reminder: the deadline for our yearly Art and Writing Contest is quickly approaching -- make sure to get your entry in by May 15th by downloading and printing the entry form. The entries we've already received look incredible! Come by our art room to stock up on any supplies you may need for your masterpiece.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Greetings from sunny Cambridge!

After his appearance in our store during the Bookish Ball last Saturday, we were so excited to have email from Timothy Basil Ering! Turns out The Rogue Artists Ensemble will be performing their stage adaptation of The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone on Sunday, April 27, at the Los Angeles Times/UCLA Festival of Books. We're hoping for a world tour in the near future, but for the moment we'll have to make do with this trailer he forwarded to us -- not to mention poring over our signed copies of Frog Belly and Necks Out for Adventure!

Speaking of the Bookish Ball, we think it was a great success! We've got lots of signed books still available not only from Timothy Basil Ering, but from local illustrator and Curious George staffer Julia Denos as well. Despite the odd rain squalls, lots of folks were out and about in Harvard Square soaking up the offerings at the area's varied selection of bookstores. It was a great new way to get people interested in our little store, chat up our friends and fellow booksellers, and it was just plain fun. We hope the Harvard Business Association makes it an annual event. (You listening out there?!) The post-Bookish Ball signing by Kate Bernheimer, author of The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum, on Wednesday also served to pack our store and bring about awareness of new, intriguing picture books. Thanks to everyone who turned out for these events. You can keep up with all our exciting events here at the blog and at our new GoCityKids Boston store listing. Find other kid-friendly activities happening in the community by clicking around their site.

Another local author we absolutely love, Lois Lowry, has gotten some well-deserved attention in this Monday's Boston Globe. (Is it just us, or is the Globe all about children's lit lately? We like this trend.) Hear her read from her hilarious new book, The Willoughbys; then come into Curious George to peruse the fruits of her incredibly prolific career -- 31 amazing books in the last 33 years!

We got a large shipment of adult and youth Curious George t-shirts this week. These are probably the last we'll have for a while as Curious George t-shirts are being discontinued due to licensing issues. Be sure to grab up a few before they're gone! We especially like the new "The Fast and the Curious" shirt featuring George and the man in the yellow hat racing away in a yellow convertible.

Next week is April vacation for Cambridge public schools. Are you ready? We have lots of books and games to offer stir crazy kids (and parents!). Check out the new book about our favorite sisters, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, by Jeanne Birdsall. Sarah Dessen also has a new one called Lock and Key. Gary Soto's Facts of Life and Tim Wynne-Jones's Rex Zero, King of Nothing are fresh offerings which may appeal more to the dudes in the crowd. Look forward to New England summer with picture books The Wave by Suzy Lee and T is for Tugboat, a deliciously nautical alphabet book from Chronicle.

Once you've selected your spring break reading, check out our suggestions for outdoor (and emergency indoor) activities. The art room has tons of supplies perfect for a rainy April day, including chubby crayons, markers, finger paints, Floam, Play-Doh, and Easy Squeezy Paints from Parents (Brush built right in! Awesome! And not messy!). The game table is stacked with Sequence, Rush Hour, retro editions of Monopoly, Parcheesi and dominoes, as well as every variation on Scrabble you could possibly want. We also have a new coloring and activity book display with doodle books from Taro Gomi. For the younger ones, there are myriad Klutz Chicken Socks activity books to explore. Everyone can enjoy some outdoor time with bubbles, giant flying rings, Frisbees, Skyrocopters, and balsa gliders. Don’t forget your sunhat! Find SPF 30 Walaroo sunhats at Curious George too. We’ve got April vacation covered. Necks out for spring!

One last thing: over her own spring vacation, CG staff member Katie visited the "Over Rainbows and Down Rabbit Holes: The Art of Children's Books" exhibit at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. After hearing her rave about the amazing array of illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon, Leo Lionni, Chris Van Allsburg, Trina Schartt Hyman, and more, we can't wait for the exhibition to move to its permanent home at the Eric Carle Museum this fall. If your summer travels take you to southern California, make sure to stop in!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Don't forget!

In just two days, on Wednesday, April 16 at 4:00 PM, author KATE BERNHEIMER will be at Curious George to read and sign her new picture book, The Girl in the Castle in the Museum. Read all about Ms. Bernheimer and the book before you stop by the signing!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Everyone Loves a Bad Boy

Whatever it may say about me as a person, I admit it: I have a thing for the bad boy genius. Cadel Piggott of Catherine Jinks’s Evil Genius (ages 12-14), and most recently, Genius Squad (ages 12-14), gives Artemis Fowl and Alex Rider a run for their money.

Underneath his curly blond hair and wide blue eyes lie formidable computer hacking skills, what one may call a pliable moral code, and once, under the tutelage of his “therapist” A.K.A. Chancellor of the Axis Institute for World Domination, Thaddeus Roth, an uncanny ability to not get caught. After graduating high school at age thirteen, Cadel is enrolled at the Axis Institute founded by his father, Phineas Darkkon (who, incidentally, is in jail for a number of schemes). Naturally, Cadel’s best courses are “Infiltration” and “Basic Lying.” However, there’s one lesson that keeps giving him trouble, no matter how he tries to calculate variables and manipulate outcomes: human nature is a slippery system not easily hacked. Filled with disguises, intrigues, betrayals and cross-betrayals, poisoned nail polish, narrow escapes, terrible stinks, and the occasional twinge of conscience, Evil Genius is perfect for any villain-lover.

Once you have devoured Evil Genius, you can go straight to its new sequel, Genius Squad. Here a (mostly) reformed Cadel is desperate to escape foster care and get back to a computer after the explosive dissolution of the Axis Institute and disappearance of its most dangerous professors. Just when the foster-sibling tension and constant surveillance seem about to drive our villain-hero crazy, the “Genius Squad” approaches Cadel and his friend Sonja about infiltrating and taking down GenoME, a pet project of Phineas Darkkon. It wouldn’t be Catherine Jinks if things were always what they seemed. Many more plot twists, kidnappings, heeled ankle boots, super spyware and general villainous mayhem await Cadel in this installment—because, of course, there’s a third on the way, promisingly titled Genius Wars.

Reynie, Kate, Sticky, and Constance, though not particularly “bad” boys or girls, are wicked geniusy. This other favorite set of gifted kids, are soon to return in The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (ages 8-12; May 08). If you missed these crafty youngsters the first time around, be sure to pick up their debut, The Mysterious Benedict Society (Ages 8-12). In answering a peculiar ad in the classifieds, the four children are selected to help Mr. Benedict prevent what he calls, “The Thing to Come,” by infiltrating the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened. Disguised as a school for gifted children, it is actually being used by Mr. Curtain (uncannily identical to Mr. Benedict) for a particularly evil brand of world domination. In their new adventure, Mr. Benedict disappears, and the fab four must once again put their unique talents to work, as no one else can.

These books follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter, with boarding school settings peopled by gifted kids. Unlike Hogwarts, there is nothing as innocent as Divination or Herbology being taught at the Axis Institute or the Learning Institute. These books probe the ambiguity of good and evil and take the dangerous process of identifying friend and foe to a whole new level. In my opinion, that’s what makes them such remarkable reads.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wimpy kids, globally aware kids, Pigeon-loving kids, and new Philip Pullman!

If you're a Boston Globe reader, you may have already seen the feature on Jeff Kinney's best-selling novel Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Somewhat of an underdog itself, with its diary format and cartoon illustrations, this book about a self-proclaimed wimp trying to survive middle school with a series of plots to win popularity has become extremely... well, popular with middle-grade readers. Despite Kinney's claim that he's "shocked that the book even got published," Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its sequel, Rodrick Rules, are a constant presence on the Publisher's Weekly Children's Bestsellers list. We've taken to stocking about ten copies at a time just to keep them on the shelf! Check them out before Wimpy Kid III and the Wimpy Kid movie come out. All the cool kids are doing it. If your middle school days are behind you, give Sherman Alexie's National Book Award-winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian a try. It’s got the hilarious (and poignant) cartoons, the self-deprecating narrator, and the quirky adventures along with a healthy dose of angst and realism on which high schoolers thrive.

We are really excited to introduce two new sections in our store. The “Environmental Awareness” section features books about endangered animals, recycling and global warming (Think Al Gore for kids! No, really, you should read the adolescent adaptation of An Inconvenient Truth. Seriously good photos and diagrams.) as well as lots of books about ways kids and teens can affect change. The “Teens” section is chock full of Chicken Soup, GLBTQ literature, puberty books and other self-help literature for this younger set. We particularly love Body Drama for the ladies in the crowd. Penned by former Miss America contestant Nancy Amanda Reed, this seriously serious and really real guide to the female body is a must-have for teen aged women.

Some new arrivals for you:

From the author/illustrator who brought us DOG and Tails comes Alphabet, an alphabet book full of all the colors and textures you’d expect from Matthew Van Fleet. Even the cover is fun to explore, with “Alphabet” spelled out in lots of different animal parts. Guess which “letter” belongs to whom before flipping the cover open to view the menagerie in all its glory.

Judith Kerr’s beloved stories about Mog the cat are now available in a boxed set. The six paperback volumes are packaged in an attractive box featuring Mog herself. As our wise buyer says, “Mog’s the bomb!”

Just when we didn’t think we could enjoy The Pigeon any more, Mo Willems has reincarnated him in another totally lovable mess: insatiable desire for a puppy. Despite his promises to water his puppy every week, readers must tell The Pigeon “no!” Which is, as always, the very best part.

The prequel to His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman has hit our shelves! Once Upon a Time in the North details the meeting of Texan balloonist Lee Skoresby and armored bear Iorek Byrnison. This compact, cloth bound book with pretty wood cut illustrations by John Lawrence also features memorabilia, clues and a miniature board game. For our part, we're just pretty jazzed to see Hester again.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Spring is here! Poetry Month, Horn Book May/June starred titles, Passover and more...

Temperatures are climbing slowly here in Cambridge and we're really ready for some springtime outdoor fun. We've got a few good ways to celebrate those brief moments between rain squalls in stock these days. Stomp Rockets are always ready for back yard gravity-defying feats. We've also got bunches of kites in all different shapes, sizes and varieties (tie die! lady bugs! SHARKS!). Or, if you prefer floating to flying, we have all the bubbles and bubble blowing necessities your heart desires.

April is Poetry Month!
Check out our window display and peruse the poetry section to stock up on themed reading material for the month. Some of our favorites:
The World's Greatest Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Keith Graves
Flamingos on the Roof by Calef Brown
My Dog May be a Genius by Children's Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky, illustrations by James Stevenson
Other Goose: Recycled Rhymes for our Fragile Times by Barbara Wyn Klunder
Oops by Alan Katz, illustrated by Edward Koren
Also look into illustrated collections of classic poetry, Shel Silvertein's oeuvre, A. A. Milne and novels told in verse.

Roger Sutton, editor and chief at The Horn Book, posted their starred picks for the May/June issue on his blog Read Roger. We are especially excited about The London Eye Mystery by Sioban Dowd, which has been selling quite well in the chapter book room, as well as Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers. And, of course, We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson made the list as well. We praised this one last week as the most beautiful part of our baseball book collection. Check it out on our display table if you haven't seen it yet.

Get your children's Haggadahs - and all your other Passover needs - at Curious George. Once you've picked up your Passover bag of plagues, Read A Mat Passover placemat (with secret spot to hide the Afikomen), and bright, plastic Seder plate you'll want some books to really put you in the mood. We suggest Passover Around the World by Tami Lehman-Wilzig, The Matza Man (a variation on the Gingerbread Man) by Naomi Howland, and The Hungry Clothes and Other Jewish Folktales retold by Peninnah Schram and illustrated by Gianni DeConno. Keep the littlest ones occupied with DK's Ultimate Sticker Book of Passover.

The design team behind the Saturday morning cartoon Sushi Pack, Leo and Laura Espinosa, were featured in the Boston Globe March 30. The Cambridge designers have recently published a picture book Otis and Rae and the Grumbling Splunk with Boston house Houghton Mifflin. This candy-colored adventure story is now available at Curious George.

We'll leave you with a few picks from the new picture books. These should come in handy on a rainy afternoon in the near future:
Mary Had a Little Lamp by Jack Lechner, illustrated by Bob Staake. Staake's digital, geometric illustrations perfectly compliment this wacky modernization of a familiar nursery rhyme. For anyone who's ever been questioned for their attachment to an inanimate object, this is the book for you.
Sally Gets a Job by Steven Huneck. Sally is back in another introspective episode. This book, illustrated with Huneck's bold wood cuts, is riddled with verbal and visual puns. Little ones will love catching the jokes and Sally's heartwarming conclusion regarding the perfect job.
Ladybug Girl by David Soman, illustrated by Jackie Davis. Take one four-year-old girl. Dress her in bug wings, galoshes, and antennae headband. Add Bassett Hound and plenty of sass. Lulu overcomes her brother's image of her as "too little" and is empowered to do anything as "Ladybug Girl." The backyard setting is perfect for springtime.